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Killer herdsmen and Nigeria’s scary future

While Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the Fulani herdsmen’s massacre in Benue State in which over 70 people lost their lives, fresh reports showed that five more people had been killed in the state by killer herdsmen despite the order given to the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to bring normalcy to the troubled state. 

Embattled Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom told a delegation of leaders from the South-West, South-East and South-South that came to condole with him over the tragedy that despite the presence of the Inspector-General of Police and 663 armed mobile policemen deployed in the state, killings are still being perpetrated while the attackers are yet to be arrested. This should worry those in authority, especially security agents.

And from Ekiti came the report that herdsmen had destroyed about 45 hectares of 500-hectar farm said to belong to former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Samuel Afolayan. The ex-naval boss was quoted as saying that the cattle rearers burnt about 20 hectares of cassava farm and five hectares of palm farm. Afolayan said he lost more than N200 million in the attack when he spoke to journalists at Ibbo-Ile in Ekiti Local Government Area of Ekiti State. He also said that such attacks have been on in the last 10 years. Afolayan averred that the destruction of his farm had been a setback to his quest to contribute to food security in the country.

In the same Ekiti State, the herdsmen had carried incessant attacks on the farm of former Finance Minister, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae. He had once suffered kidnap by herdsmen but later regained his freedom. It was based on these attacks that Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State enacted the anti-grazing laws. And it is also likely that the herdsmen menace may spread to other parts of the country and leave in its wake, much sorrow, tears and blood.

The story of killer herdsmen in Nigeria is a relatively long one since the nascent democracy that commenced on May 29, 1999. Before this epoch, Fulani herdsmen were peaceful. They only carried sticks and at times knives to ward off attacks but not to kill people in their host communities as is presently the case. The emergence of killer Fulani herdsmen, whether local or foreign, has intensified since the coming of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the president of Nigeria in 2015.

Buhari’s studied silence and body language might have emboldened the Fulani herdsmen on their killer rampage of some states in the country, especially Benue State. In their murderous campaigns, they destroy crops, kill people and rape women. At times, they engage in kidnapping for ransom. The marauding herdsmen’s menace attracted global attention that in 2014, they were ranked the 4th deadliest terrorist group in the world after Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Shabab by the Global Terrorist Index.

Available data shows that the death toll arising from herdsmen attacks is about 5,000. But in Nigeria, they are everywhere armed with AK47 and killing innocent people. Even though a pro-democracy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to categorize marauding armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, the president has looked the other way.

It will be recalled that attacks by herdsmen in Southern Kaduna between October 2016 and January 2017 had, according to reports, claimed about 204 lives. The herdsmen in 2016 killed about 46 persons in Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani council of Enugu State. Between 300 and 500 Nigerians were reportedly killed in Agatu, Benue State by killer herdsmen in 2016. There had been such killings in Jos, Plateau State, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Delta, and other states. We can go on and on. The list of these dastardly killings is by no means exhaustive.

With the rampaging armed Fulani herdsmen on the prowl, Nigeria’s future is scary. The Federal Government under the watch of Buhari must not fail to act now to arrest the situation that may push Nigeria to slip into anarchy. The patience of other Nigerians to bear the brunt of renewed herdsmen killings cannot endure forever. Moreover, the herdsmen have no monopoly of violence.

The government should stop handling the herdsmen with kid gloves. This is the right time to apprehend the masterminds of Benue massacre and their foot soldiers. It is bad to turn Nigeria into a killing range because of cattle. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not reckoned among major producers of cattle yet cattle remain the source of Nigeria’s present headache and danger. 

Nigeria must not take pride as a country where human beings are daily killed because of cattle. Animal husbandry, which cattle rearing is just a part, must not be carried out to constitute a danger to farm crops and human lives as is presently the case in Nigeria. All over the world, cattle are reared in ranches where their quality can be maximized and never allowed to roam and destroy peoples’ farms and crops.

The idea of cattle colony, which the Federal Government is contemplating, is very dangerous. The government should not even think of it. Farming, whether in the form of cattle or maize, is a private business. Just as rice farmers procure their farmlands, cattle rearers must also procure their own. The Federal Government must not have a hand in it.

Interestingly, many states have kicked against cattle colony. These states know that it is going to provoke more troubles than it can solve. The increasing killings in Nigeria because of cattle farming do not portray us as a serious people. Let individual cattle farmers establish ranches and stop the ongoing bloodletting that cattle pastoralists portend.

It is not good to turn Nigeria into a bid grave yard because of cattle farming that other countries carry out with much gusto. The nation’s police boss should rise to the challenge of the herdsmen menace and bring the culprits to book. The duty of the police is to protect the citizens and enforce law and order. What happened in Benue does not show that the police are on top of the situation.

Hiding under the cover that the herdsmen are foreigners does not help matters. If indeed the herdsmen are not Nigerians; that in itself is enough reason why they must be arrested and prosecuted. Government cannot continue to endanger the life of Nigerians simply because the herdsmen are said to be foreigners.

Let the leaders of the country meet and come up with measures to stop the present carnage and chart a way forward for the embattled country. What is happening now does not portray how to be a successful country. Ours is already manifesting signs of a failed state.

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